COLUMBUS, Ohio With the 2009 non-conference schedule now behind them, the No. 41 Ohio State women’s tennis team (9-6, 2-0 Big Ten) will turn its attention back to Big Ten play with matchups against No. 63 Iowa (7-7, 2-1 Big Ten) at 4 p.m. ET Friday in Iowa City and against No. 64 Minnesota (8-6, 1-2 Big Ten) at noon in Minneapolis ET Sunday.
ALL ABOUT IOWA
Iowa enters the match Friday with an even 7-7 record overall, with all losses coming against teams ranked in the Campbell/ITA Top 75. The Hawkeyes are 3-2 in their last five matches, with wins over Kansas, Minnesota and Michigan State.
One reason for the Hawkeyes’ success this season has been the stellar play of freshman Sonja Molnar, who is 12-2 at No. 1 singles this spring. Molnar is ranked as the No. 92 player in the nation by the ITA. Sophomore Lynne Poggensee-Wei has also been a critical part of Iowa’s singles lineup, posting a 7-4 record at No. 3 singles this spring.
The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes met last season in Columbus, a 4-3 Buckeye win. After the Scarlet and Gray won the doubles point, the squads split the singles matches, with Ohio State picking up wins from Julie Blackmore, Cami Hubbs and Christina Keesey to take the match.
Ohio State is 14-21 against Iowa all-time. The last meeting between the squads in Iowa City came in 2007, a 7-0 sweep by the Hawkeyes. Buckeye head coach Chuck Merzbacher is 5-7 all-time against Iowa.
A GLANCE AT THE GOLDEN GOPHERS
After a 5-2 start to the spring season, No. 64 Minnesota has cooled off somewhat, going 3-3 in its last six matches. The Golden Gophers are led by junior Tijana Koprivica, who is 11-1 in the spring season. Senior Karina Chiarelli has assumed duties at No. 1 for Minnesota, turning in an even 6-6 record in singles play.
Chiarelli teams with sophomore Alessandra Ferrazzi at No. 1 doubles, where they are 6-0 together this spring. Koprivica and Niltooli Wilkins play No. 2 doubles for the Golden Gophers, where they are 7-3 in the spring season.
Ohio State was a 6-1 winner last season against Minnesota in Columbus, despite a seven and a half hour delay because of a power outage at the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center and the surrounding area. Paloma Escobedo and Angela DiPastina were winners at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, while Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs also won their singles matches.
The Scarlet and Gray have won five in a row over the Golden Gophers but still trail in the all-time series, 13-24. Ohio State head coach Chuck Merzbacher, a graduate of Minnesota, is 10-4 all-time against the Golden Gophers. Merzbacher was a three-time All-Big Ten honoree at Minnesota and is still the all-time winningest singles player in program history, with 137 singles wins to his credit.
KEEPING UP WITH THE TEAM
The trip to Iowa City and Minneapolis is all part of a 10-day spring break roadtrip for the Buckeyes, which began in Las Vegas last Friday and ends Sunday night as they return to Columbus.
Buckeye freshman Kelsey Haviland is tracking the team’s progress throughout the trip on a running blog on OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Angela DiPastina and Christina Keesey broke into the national rankings in doubles, making their debut as the No. 80 doubles team in the nation. Keesey and DiPastina, who won 22 matches together last season, are 8-3 this season, including a 6-1 mark at No. 1 this spring.
DOUBLES NO TROUBLE
The Buckeyes have been on a tear in paired play since shuffling the doubles lineup after the Virginia Tech match. Combined in the seven matches since, Ohio State has dropped only three doubles contests while picking up 18 wins. Each of the Buckeyes’ doubles teams, Angela DiPastina and Christina Keesey at No. 1, Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs at No. 2 and Kirsten Flower and Paloma Escobedo at No. 3, are 6-1 together this spring.
LEADERS OF THE PACK
Kirsten Flower leads the team in singles wins in 2008-09, posting 14 wins, including an 9-6 mark at No. 1 singles. Kelsey Haviland has won 11 matches, while Angela DiPastina and Julie Blackmore have 11 each and Cami Hubbs has nine.
Hubbs leads the team with 18 wins in doubles this season, while Blackmore, DiPastina and Christina Keesey all have 15 wins to their name in 2008-09.
BIG TEN TITLE RACE HEATS UP
Ohio State is one of just three teams that remains unbeaten in Big Ten conference play. No. 1 Northwestern holds a 4-0 mark in conference play, No. 17 Michigan is 3-0 and the 41st-ranked Buckeyes are 2-0. No. 33 Illinois remains close at 3-1, while No. 63 Iowa is 2-1.
Junior Kirsten Flower was named the Big Ten women’s tennis athlete of the week March 3 after her part in helping the 37th-rankedBuckeyes to a 6-1 win over conference-foe Penn State. The weekly laurel is the first for Flower as a Buckeye and the first for Ohio State since Cami Hubbs received the award in March 2008.
The 116th-ranked Flower defeated Monika Mical in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3 in No. 1 singles and paired with Paloma Escobedo to blank the Nittany Lions combo of Mical and Sarah Lotto, 8-0.
A graduate of Upper Arlington high school, Flower spent her freshman and sophomore years at Georgia Tech before transferring back to her hometown this past summer. She helped the Yellow Jackets to both the 2007 NCAA championship and the 2008 ITA Indoor championship, while also winning 47 career singles matches.
VIVA LAS VEGAS! BUCKEYES KNOCK OFF UTES
Despite desert winds exceeding 35 miles per hour in Las Vegas, Nev., Ohio State was a 6-1 winner against 53rd-ranked Utah in the Buckeyes’ final non-conference dual match of the 2009 season.
Paloma Escobedo, who had played No. 2 singles this season, was scratched from the singles lineup after suffering an ankle injury in a practice Friday. She did play in doubles, however, combining with Kirsten Flower at No. 3 to take an 8-1 decision over Leigh Walsh and Karine Bourdages. The Buckeyes kept the winning going in doubles, with Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs taking down Lisa Johnson and Anastasia Putilina at No. 2, 8-3, to pick up their sixth win of the spring together.
Angela DiPastina and Christina Keesey finished out the doubles point in their first match as a nationally ranked tandem, defeating Erin Monson and Andrea Maughan at No. 1, 8-5.
The sweep of doubles was seventh-consecutive doubles point win for Ohio State. As a team, the Buckeyes have won 18 of their last 21 doubles matches, including sweeps in four of the last seven contests.
After doubles, the Buckeyes quickly jumped to a 2-0 match advantage when Bourdages retired from her match at No. 6 singles with freshman Kelsey Haviland with the first set tied at 3-all. Keesey, playing at her highest singles position this season, defeated Johnson at No. 3 in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3. The win was Keesey’s seventh in row in singles, and gave Ohio State a 3-0 match lead. The Utes got on the board in a battle of seniors at No. 4, where Walsh defeated DiPastina, 6-4, 6-3. The remaining three matches being played went into a third set.
Blackmore provided the match clinching win from the No. 5 position over Lexi Provancha, winning the first set 6-4, dropping the second 4-6, before claiming the third, 6-3. The win was Blackmore’s 70th career singles victory, moving her past Leann Grimes (1975-78) for 8th all-time at Ohio State.
Playing at No. 2 for the second time this season, Hubbs defeated Monson in a tightly contested three set battle, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. Flower closed out the match for Ohio State with a furious third set comeback against Putilina at No. 1. After falling in the first set 3-6, Flower rallied for a 6-0 second set win, before finding herself in a 5-3 third set deficit. The Buckeye junior responded, winning four consecutive games to take the match, 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.
BUCKEYES BUMP BOILERMAKERS
Ohio State fought off a strong challenge from Big Ten foe Purdue and came out a winner, 4-3, at the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center March 13.
The doubles point proved to be vital, and Christina Keesey and Angela DiPastina were winners for the fifth time in six matches at No. 1. Ohio State also picked up a win at No. 2 as well, with Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs getting an 8-4 win over Remi Martin and Jennifer Rabot. No. 3 doubles was never in question, as Kirsten Flower and Paloma Escobedo won their fifth straight doubles match, taking an 8-1 decision over Anna Dushkina and Tatiana Ganzha.
In singles, Flower took a decisive first set victory at No. 1 against Michelle Sammons on her way to a 6-2, 7-5 win. Keesey took a hard fought 7-5 first set win at No. 5, and then dropped Martin with relative ease in the second frame, winning the clinching match, 7-5, 6-1.
Blackmore proved to be too much at the No. 6 spot for Dushkina, running out to a 5-0 first set lead and a then a 4-2 second set lead on her way to a 6-1, 6-3 win over the Boilermaker freshman.
Hubbs, Escobedo and DiPastina each lost in their singles matches, which all came after the Buckeyes had clinched the team victory.